London

Former human trafficking cop pleads guilty to discreditable conduct

The former head of the London police service's human trafficking section pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct Friday after letting a fellow officer caught in a John sting off with a warning.

An officer was let off with a warning after being caught in a John sting supervised by Sgt. Hay

Sgt. Michael Hay studies floor plans of local hotels to make sure officers cover all exits and stairwells while checking on a woman they suspect is being sex trafficked. On Friday he pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

For 18 years, London police Sgt. Michael Hay had an unblemished record and commendations for his caring approach to policing. 

As head of the human trafficking unit he made connections with sex workers and community organizations who help vulnerable women and girls. 

But on Friday, he pleaded guilty to one count of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act and will have to forfeit 120 hours of pay, take police ethics training and continue counselling. 

His guilty plea meant two other Police Services Act charges — neglect of duty and insubordination — were withdrawn. 

"This officer has no discipline history and in fact he has a personnel file that is filled with commendations," said Hay's lawyer, Lucas O'Hara, at Friday's hearing. 

"This misconduct is inconsistent with this officer's entire work history." 

On April 19, 2018, Hay was supervising a John sting operation, which targeted men who were trying to buy sexual services, which is illegal in Canada. 

One of the men arrested turned out to be a police officer.

"Upon being notified of the arrest and after confirming the arrested male was in fact a police officer who was very close to retirement, Sgt. Hay utilized his discretion to direct the subject male to be warned and released unconditionally," according to the agreed statement of facts read out at Friday's hearing. 

"Sgt. Hay provided preferential treatment to the subject male by releasing him unconditionally because he was a police officer. By doing so, Sgt. Hay failed to perform his duties impartially." 

The officer let go by Hay was a former Waterloo Regional Police Service officer. He was charged in June with communicating with a person for the purpose of obtaining sexual services. 

The officer was hit by a transport truck while walking on Highway 401 in Cambridge on Aug. 8. 

Ret. Deputy Chief Terrance Kelly, who oversaw the discipline hearing, told Hay to use the incident and discipline hearing as a learning tool. 

"During these 18 years, you've been a capable police officer," Kelly said. "My advice to you is that you use this as a learning process and use it when speaking to other officers as an example of what can occur when you make mistakes."

Kelly said Hay's immediate admission of guilty and guilty plea were positive signs that the officer recognized his behaviour was wrong. 

"Good luck with the rest of your career. I hope the next 18 years of your career are like the previous 18, before this incident," Kelly said. 

London police Chief John Pare said he was shocked by Hay's actions but believes the officer has good character. 

Hay is no longer the head of the human trafficking unit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.

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